“Brahmotsavam” festival is an important annual festival celebrated at Sri Venketeshwara temple in Tirumala-Tirupati of Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh, India. It is a grand festival celebrated over a span of nine days and is also by far the largest.
The “Brahmotsavam” festival is also called “Sri Venkateswara Vari Brahmotsavam” or “Srivari Brahmotsavam”. The festival is celebrated in reverence to Lord Venkateswara, the presiding deity of Sri Venkateswara Swamy Vari Temple at Tirumala, Tirupati.
“Srivari Brahmotsavam” is celebrated in the Hindu calendar month of Asvina, which coincides with the months September-October as per the Gregorian calendar.
Brahmotsavam Festival 2019
Srivari Brahmotsavam 2019 will be celebrated from 30th September to 8th October. The nine days celebration coincides with Navaratri, concluding on the day of Dussehra celebrations.
The word “Brahmotsavam” is formed by combining two words – Brahma and Mahotsavam. Brahma is a revered Hindu deity believed to be the creator of universe, and Mahotsavam means celebration. “Brahmotsavam”, therefore is a festival to honor Brahma who is believed to have descended to earth to celebrate the festival.
Brahmotsavam Festival History
The festival of Brahmotsava is being celebrated since ancient times; the evidences of festival celebration in Tirumala-Tirupati Devsthanam can be traced back to as early as 966 CE. It was during the rule of Pallava Dynasty, that Pallava queen Samavai donated jewels and land to the Tirumala temple. She also ordered to utilize the funds collected from land for celebrations of festival in the temple. There are epigraphic evidences to suggest that the festivals were being conducted monthly in the temple till 1582 BC.
Legend of Brahmotsavam Festival
Brahmotsava means a celebration (Utsava) performed by Lord Brahma. The legend associated with the festival states that, once Indra the king of heaven killed a demon of Brahmin descent, named Brahma Rakshasha. He was a Brahmin but also had demonic characteristics. Killing a Brahmin is considered a sin in Hindu religion.
Having committed the sin of killing a Brahmin, it was impossible for Indra to continue as the king of heaven. Looking for pardon from his sin, Indra turned to Lord Brahma for advice. Lord Brahma relieved Indra of his sins by conducting a ritual in which he made Lord Indra to carry Lord Vishnu over his head during the performance. It is the same ritual which is celebrated today as “Brahmotsava” or “Srivari Brahmotsava”.
Srivari Brahmotsavam Celebrations
“Srivari Brahmotsavam” is a grand celebration lasting for nine days, coinciding with the festival of Navratri and concluding on the day of Dussehra. Millions of devotees from near and far visit the Tirumala-Tirupati temple during the festival. During the festival the temple is spread with sandalwood, camphor and other fragrant materials. The nine day festival coincides with the nine days Navaratri festival, celebrated mostly in north India. Each nine day has its own significance and a defined ritual to be performed. A description of the nine days festivities is given below-
Day 1 – Dhwajarohan or Flag Hoisting/God’s Serpent Vehicle
On the first day the idols of revered temple deity – Malayappa and his consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi along with other Gods are taken in a procession along the temple. Malayappa Swami is the current utsava murti of the temple, used in rituals as using or moving the main deity Lord Venkateswara (Vishnu) is considered inappropriate.
The procession is followed by flag hoisting on top of the temple. The flag has a picture of Garuda (mount of Vishnu) and its hoisting is symbolic of inviting all the deities to attend the Brahmotsava celebrations. It is believed that Garuda goes to heaven for inviting the Gods.
In the evening a procession of deity is again taken out, mounted on Adi Sesha as his vehicle. Adi Sesha is the chief serpant God with thousand heads.
Day 2 – Mounted On Vaasuki/ Swan
On the morning of second day, a procession is taken out with the deity mounted on Vaasuki – five headed serpant God. In the evening again a procession is carried out with the God mounted on a Swan as his vehicle. It is also called Hamsa (Swan) Vahanam.
Day 3 – Mounted On a Lion/ Palanquin of Pearls
On the morning of third day a procession of the deity is taken out mounted on a lion as his vehicle. Lion is considered a symbol of power and royalty. Same day evening a procession is carried out of deity along with his consorts Sri Devi and Bhu Devi in a palanquin of pearls. Pearls are considered a symbol of purity and royalty. In local language the palanquin of pearls is called as “Muthyala Pallaki Vahanam”.
Day 4 – Mounted On a Kalp Vriksha (Tree)/ Sarva Bhoopala Vahanam
On the morning of the fourth day a procession of deity is carried out mounted on a kalp vriksha as his vehicle. It is considered symbolic of God as a giver and the one who fulfills the wishes of his disciples. In the evening the procession of deity is carried out on Sarva Bhoopala Vahanam. “Sarva Bhoopala” in English means – the God, in charge of earth.
Day 5 – Mohini Avataram/Garud Vahanam
On the fifth day of the festival, deity is decorated in the attire of Mohini Avataram, the one who distributed the divine nectar. Other processions start from outside the temple, but Mohini Avataram starts from inside the temple in a palanquin.
In the evening another procession of Lord Venkateswara mounted on Garuda (king of birds) is taken out. The procession is visited by thousands of devotees who consider the sight of Lord mounted on Garuda as a rare sight having tremendous powers.
Day 6 – Hanumantha Vahanam/Swarna Rathotsavam and Gaja Vahanam
On the morning of sixth day Lord Venkateswara is take out in a procession, mounted on Lord Hanuman. Sri Rama of treta Yuga is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and Hanuman is undisputedly the greatest devotee of Lord Rama. In the evening again two processions are carried out – with lord seated on a golden chariot (Swarna Rathotsavam) and again on an Elephant or Gaja (Gaja Vahanam).
Day 7 – Surya Prabha Vahanam/Chandra Prabha Vahanam
On the seventh day morning Lord Venkateswara is carried out in a procession with Sun God driving the chariot. Again, in the evening the procession is carried out with moon as the vehicle of Lord. Both the processions are symbolic of Lord Venkateswara being responsible for the occurrence of day and night.
Day 8 – Rathotsavam/Ashwa Vahanam
On the morning of eighth day, a procession of Lord is carried out in a chariot; the lord is accompanied by his consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi. The chariot is pulled by the devotees and witnessed by thousands. It is believed that the one, who witnesses this procession, gets relieved from the cycle of rebirth. In the evening a procession of Lord is carried out with horse (Ashwa) as his vehicle.
Day 9 – Chakra Snanam/Dwajaavarohanam
On the morning of the last day a bathing ceremony of processional deity Malayappa is performed along with his consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi and Sudarshan Chakra, at Varaha Swamy Temple on the banks of Swamy Pushkarni. Sudarshan chakra is again dipped in Swamy Pushkarni, and it is believed that anyone who bathes in it simultaneously with the chakra will be absolved from his sins. In the evening the Garuda flag is lowered in the presence of priests, marking the conclusion of Brahmotsava.
Adhika Masam (Extra 13th Month)
Any solar and lunar calendar has 365 and 354 days respectively. This difference leads to an extra month in the lunar calendar every three years. Since, Brahmotsa is observed following the Lunar calendar, every third year two Brahmotsavams are celebrated – Salakatla Annual Brahmotsava and Navaratri Brahmotsavam.
There is a slight difference between the events of Salakatla Brahmotsava and Navaratri Brahmotsava. On the first day of Salakatla Brahmotsava, flag hoisting is done, while no flag hoisting is done on Navarathri Brahmotsava.
The deity is carried out on a golden chariot on the evening of the sixth day in Salakatla Brahmotsava, while he is carried out on a Pushpak Viman in Navaratri Brahmotsava.
Big chariot day is held on the morning of 8th day in Salakatla Brahmotsava, while in Navaratri Brahmotsava the deity is carried in a golden chariot on the morning of 8th day.
Significance of Brahmotsavam Festival
Srivari Brahmotsava at Tirumala Tirupati is witnessed by the storm of devotees even from Andhra Pradesh as well as from far off places. It is believed that anyone who witnesses the processions of Lord or takes a dip in the holy water of Pushkarni simultaneously with the Sudarshan Chakra, is absolved from all his sins and gets free from rebirth.
Apart from having religious and spiritual significance the festival also gives the devotees a chance to know the mythology and vibrancy of their religion. On the advent of the festival the temple is thoroughly cleaned and covered in sandal wood paste. Hymns and Mantras are chanted continuously for nine days, making the festival more enticing and a non forgettable experience.